Anna Oppermann at S.M.A.K.

Artist: Anna Oppermann

Exhibition title: Neverending Paradox. Philosophical Ensembles of the late 1980s

Curated by: Ute Vorkoeper

Venue: S.M.A.K., Ghent, Belgium

Date: March 10 – June 4, 2017

Photography: Dirk Pauwels, all images copyright and courtesy of the artist and S.M.A.K.

For the first time, S.M.A.K. presents three late works by the German artist Anna Oppermann (1940-93), who became internationally known for her visually overwhelming ensembles: variable assemblages of objects, texts, photographs, coloured photo-canvases and paintings. Oppermann’s artistic method is seminal in the way that it fuses ideas from process art, concept art, arte povera and issues of participation and performance from the 1960s and ’70s to form a distinctively unique artistic language.

Each ensemble started with found objects, images and ideas which had become metaphors to the artist for the diversity, absurdity and contrasts of personal and public life. These starting objects form the core of an ensemble. She observed them from different perspectives, wrote about them and gradually added further artistic reflections and associations. She developed her ensembles over several years and accordingly exhibited them in various states of being. Oppermann described her ensembles as exercises in observation and insight that are in principal infinite.

Both in her oeuvre as well as in each singular ensemble Oppermann moved, as she wrote, from simple to complex and from private to general. During the 1960s and 1970s she focused on questions raised by her personal life, e.g. around social roles and inter-human relations. In the 1980s, her perspective expanded to economic, political and philosophical views on art and society. S.M.A.K. is presenting three of Oppermann’s late ensembles – Myth and Enlightenment (1985-92), Paradoxical Intentions – To lie the Blue down from the Sky (1988-92) and On the one hand… on the other hand; both… and (M+M) (1988-92) – each of which highlights different aspects of her practice.

The associative method that characterizes Oppermann’s practice embraces core aspects of ‘post-modern’ thinking, in which the apparent contradiction is a core concept. In her approach, which involves opening up conventions, she constantly faced contradictions, ambiguities and paradoxes. She dissected them into manifold facets and commented on them with personal reflections and those of others. Curator Ute Vorkoeper: “The work of Anna Oppermann is an exemplary exercise in dealing with complex realities and therefore highly relevant to our globalized and conflicting present.”

Anna Oppermann was born in Eutin, Germany in 1940. After graduating from the College of Fine Arts in Hamburg, she stayed on there. She died in Celle, her second place of residence, in 1993. From 1982 to 1990 she gave art lessons at the Bergische Universität in Wuppertal and from 1990 until her early death she was a professor of Liberal Arts at the Universität der Künste in Berlin.

It was through her participation in documenta 8 (1977) that she became known internationally. After that, invitations poured in, for the Venice Biennale (1980), the Sydney Biennale (1984) and documenta 10 (1987). After her death some of her great works went on display at the São Paulo Biennale (2012). In addition, her works have always been represented in major group exhibitions, both in Germany and internationally, recently at Monday Begins on Saturday, 1st Bergen Assembly, Norway (2013), Playtime, City Gallery in Lenbachhaus, Munich (2014), The Unfaithful Replica, Centro de Arte Dos de Mayo (CA2M), Madrid, Spain (2016), Incorporated!, Ateliers de Rennes – Biennale d’Art Contemporain, Rennes, France (2016) and The Everywhere Studio, Institute of Contemporary Art Miami, VS (2017, upcoming).

Retrospectives dedicated to her oeuvre were staged at the Bonn Kunstverein and in the Kunstverein in Hamburg (1984), and both the Württemberg Kunstverein in Stuttgart and the Generali Foundation in Vienna organised posthumous retrospectives (2007). Numerous solo exhibitions have also taken place in art institutes and galleries around the world.

Anna Oppermann, Einerseits – andererseits; sowohl als auch… (M + M), 1988 – 1992; On the one hand – on the other hand; both … and (M+M), 1988 – 1992, S.M.A.K. Gent, Installation view 2017, photo: Dirk Pauwels, Courtesy Estate Anna Oppermann, Galerie Barbara Thumm

Anna Oppermann, Einerseits – andererseits; sowohl als auch… (M + M), 1988 – 1992; On the one hand – on the other hand; both … and (M+M), 1988 – 1992, S.M.A.K. Gent, Installation view 2017, photo: Dirk Pauwels Courtesy Estate Anna Oppermann, Galerie Barbara Thumm

Anna Oppermann, Einerseits – andererseits; sowohl als auch… (M + M), 1988 – 1992, On the one hand – on the other hand; both … and (M+M), 1988 – 1992, S.M.A.K. Gent, Installation view 2017, photo: Dirk Pauwels, Courtesy Estate Anna Oppermann, Galerie Barbara Thumm

Anna Oppermann, Einerseits – andererseits; sowohl als auch… (M + M), 1988 – 1992; On the one hand – on the other hand; both … and (M+M), 1988 – 1992, S.M.A.K. Gent, Installation view 2017, photo: Dirk Pauwels Courtesy Estate Anna Oppermann, Galerie Barbara Thumm

Anna Oppermann, Einerseits – andererseits; sowohl als auch… (M + M), 1988 – 1992, On the one hand – on the other hand; both … and (M+M), 1988 – 1992, S.M.A.K. Gent, Installation view 2017, photo: Dirk Pauwels Courtesy Estate Anna Oppermann, Galerie Barbara Thumm

Anna Oppermann, Einerseits – andererseits; sowohl als auch… (M + M), 1988 – 1992, On the one hand – on the other hand; both … and (M+M), 1988 – 1992, S.M.A.K. Gent, Installation view 2017, photo: Dirk Pauwels, Courtesy Estate Anna Oppermann, Galerie Barbara Thumm

Anna Oppermann, Mythos und Aufklärung, 1985-1992; Myth and Enlightenment, 1985-1992, S.M.A.K. Gent, Installation view 2017, photo: Dirk Pauwels, Courtesy Estate Anna Oppermann, Galerie Barbara Thumm

Anna Oppermann, Mythos und Aufklärung, 1985-1992; Myth and Enlightenment, 1985-1992, S.M.A.K. Gent, Installation view 2017, photo: Dirk Pauwels, Courtesy Estate Anna Oppermann, Galerie Barbara Thumm

Anna Oppermann, Mythos und Aufklärung, 1985-1992; Myth and Enlightenment, 1985-1992, S.M.A.K. Gent, Installation view 2017, photo: Dirk Pauwels, Courtesy Estate Anna Oppermann, Galerie Barbara Thumm

Anna Oppermann, Paradoxe Intentionen (Das Blaue vom Himmel herunterlügen), 1988-1992; Paradoxical Intentions (To Lie the Blue Down from the Sky), 1988-1992, S.M.A.K. Gent, Installation view 2017, photo: Dirk Pauwels, Courtesy Estate Anna Oppermann, Galerie Barbara Thumm

Anna Oppermann, Paradoxe Intentionen (Das Blaue vom Himmel herunterlügen), 1988-1992; Paradoxical Intentions (To Lie the Blue Down from the Sky), 1988-1992, S.M.A.K. Gent, Installation view 2017, photo: Dirk Pauwels, Courtesy Estate Anna Oppermann, Galerie Barbara Thumm

Anna Oppermann, Paradoxe Intentionen (Das Blaue vom Himmel herunterlügen), 1988-1992; Paradoxical Intentions (To Lie the Blue Down from the Sky), 1988-1992, S.M.A.K. Gent, Installation view 2017, photo: Dirk Pauwels, Courtesy Estate Anna Oppermann, Galerie Barbara Thumm

Anna Oppermann, Paradoxe Intentionen (Das Blaue vom Himmel herunterlügen), 1988-1992; Paradoxical Intentions (To Lie the Blue Down from the Sky), 1988-1992, S.M.A.K. Gent, Installation view 2017, photo: Dirk Pauwels, Courtesy Estate Anna Oppermann, Galerie Barbara Thumm

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